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'Use Chesterfield shops' plea after spate of store closures

Chesterfield town centre.
Chesterfield town centre.

A Chesterfield council chief has urged residents to use town centre shops - or lose them.

Councillor Steve Brunt made the plea after figures painted a bleak picture for Chesterfield high street during 2017.

The Local Data Company statistics revealed there were 25 store closures and 12 openings in Chesterfield last year - a net decline of 13 shops.

In comparison, Nottingham saw 34 openings and 44 closures - a net decline of 10 stores.

Coun Brunt, Chesterfield Borough Council's cabinet member for town centres and visitor economy, said: "The very latest shop vacancy figures collected in March show that of the 354 town centre retail units 92.37 per cent are occupied, meaning Chesterfield has a vacancy rate of 7.63 per cent compared to a national average of 12.2 per cent.

"This is actually a small improvement compared to March, 2017, when the vacancy rate was 8.19 per cent, and during the past year the town has consistently outperformed national vacancy rates.

"But as this report shows, if local people do not use town centre shops then they will close down because shops cannot compete against online shopping and the switch from retail to leisure spending in town centres unless there are sufficient customers coming in through the door.

"Some of the closures have been due to national chains going into administration and some have been due to businesses relocating to bigger units, such as Qoozies and Greggs.

"Five of the vacant town centre units either have new owners moving in soon or are under offer.

"The biggest empty retail unit is the former Co-op building and work is now well underway to redevelop that location, and one of the other significant units is the former Post Office, which is going to become a Loungers continental style cafe-bar."

A council spokesman added: "Most of the town centre shops are owned and managed by the private sector, with business rates set nationally by the Government and shop rent levels set by the property owners.

"But the council does support initiatives to help increase footfall in the town centre area."

'Town centre is evolving'

Dom Stevens, manager of Destination Chesterfield, said: "Chesterfield town centre continues to evolve to meet changing consumer needs and habits and this has resulted in maintaining shop occupancy levels well above the national average.

"Despite the findings of this report there are a number of developments underway, including the former Co-Op, which will reduce the number of the empty units in the town.

"Housing developments are also underway in the town centre and we are seeing more events and activities taking place, like the wheel and the new street food festival taking place in May, which combine to increase footfall.

"What we should all take from reports like this is that we need to shop local, be they retailers, restaurants or business.

"If we want businesses to remain open and flourish in the town we need to support them.

“Next month we'll be celebrating these great business in the Chesterfield Retail Awards.

"It is thanks to the support of the thousands of people who nominated that make these awards such a success each year."

The national picture

Nationally, there were 4,083 new store openings in 2017, the lowest since 2010.

But with 5,855 outlets closing in 2017, a total of 1,772 shops disappeared.

Lisa Hooker, of PwC - which commissioned the research - said 2017 had been 'tough for the British retail industry, especially the second half of the year'.

She said many retailers were increasingly feeling the impact of online shopping, with the fashion business, banking, travel agents and estate agents all losing a significant number of outlets as a result.

But she added: "It's important to remember the British high street still plays a vital role in society and there are elements of growth amongst the headline numbers of decline.

"For example, almost 400 new clothes shops opened last year, even though over 700 closed.

"And, while four pubs a week closed, at the same time three a week opened."